American Football Database
Riki Ellison
File:Riki Ellison at CAFB 071128-F-0870P-002 crop.JPG
Ellison in November 2007
No. 50     
Personal information
Date of birth: (1960-08-15) August 15, 1960 (age 61)
Place of birth: Christchurch, New Zealand
Career information
College: USC
NFL Draft: 1983 / Round: 5 / Pick: 117
Debuted in 1983 for the [[{{{debutteam}}}]]
Last played in 1992 for the [[{{{finalteam}}}]]
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Stats at

Riki Morgan Ellison (born August 15, 1960, in Christchurch, New Zealand) is a former linebacker, who went by Riki Gray while in college at USC as an All-Pac-10 player in 1982.

College career

Ellison was part of a USC Trojans team that went to the Rose Bowl and won a national championship.

Ellison was a brother of Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity (FIJI) while at USC.[citation needed]

Professional career

The NFL San Francisco 49ers chose him with their fifth-round pick in the 1983 NFL Draft becoming the first ever New Zealander and Maori to play in Professional Football before David Dixon who played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1994 to 2004. Jerry Attaway, his conditioning coach at USC and (teammate) Ronnie Lott had convinced Bill Walsh to take him.

Ellison won three Super Bowls during his seven years with the 49ers.[1] He was drafted alongside a pair of future Pro Bowlers, running back Roger Craig and center/guard Jesse Sapolu. In his final season with the 49ers in 1989, he broke his right arm in the final preseason game and was placed on the injured reserve list for the season.[2] He played his final three seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders.

Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance

In 2002 Riki launched the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance a non-profit organization with mission to advocate for the deployment and development of a missile defense system. The organization boasts over 10,000 members.[citation needed]

Youth Impact Program

In 2005, Mr. Ellison founded the Youth Impact Program for disadvantaged, poverty-stricken and at-risk adolescent boys in US inner cities.[3] The program places them in an educational setting for five weeks, exposing them to academics, life skills and athletics in a University setting. The program provides the boys with clothing, food and permanent mentors who track and support the young men year-round. The Youth Impact Program is now in four major cities – San Francisco, New Orleans, Houston, and Syracuse– and has twice been recognized by the United States Congress in Congressional Resolutions for its achievements, innovation and impact.


Ellison is part Māori. At eight, Ellison moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with his father, Dan, who went on to become an economic advisor to the United Nations. Shortly thereafter, Riki's parents divorced and he relocated with his mother to Los Angeles, where she remarried Dennis Gray. Ellison went to high school in Tucson, AZ. The Ellison family comes from a strong sporting background, he is related to professional Rugby players Tamati Ellison and Jacob Ellison who both played in Super Rugby, Tamati now playing in Japan and Thomas Ellison who became one of the original All Blacks and the first Maori lawyer.

In 1992, Ellison relocated his family to New Zealand and attempted to bring a college bowl game called the Haka Bowl to New Zealand.

In 2001, while working for Lockheed Martin in Washington, DC, Riki was named the Head Coach of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. This is the same high school that was portrayed in Remember The Titans. He did this without pay. As he said it was all about "helping kids".[citation needed]

Ellison's son, Rhett, was selected by the Minnesotta Vikings with their second fourth round pick of the 2012 NFL draft.


  1. Farmer, Sam (October 8, 2000). "EX-49ERS RECALL MOVE TO RAIDERS LOOKING BACK ON CHANGING LOYALTIES". The San Jose Mercury News: p. 1D. "Ellison 's views have softened on the 49ers, with whom he played from 1983 to '89 and earned three Super Bowl rings."
  2. Dufrense, Chris (September 20, 1990). "He's Glad to Be an Ex-49er". Archived from the original on May 25, 2012.
  3. "Youth Impact Program". Retrieved 25 May 2012.

pt:Riki Ellison